Interview With Judy Noddin, MFT

What are the most rewarding aspects of being a therapist?

One of the most rewarding aspects of being a therapist is constantly being challenged to grow and heal in order to have the necessary skills and capacities to support my client’s growth and healing.

The emphasis here is “support” my client’s healing. One of the biggest misnomers about therapy is the belief that the therapist has a “magic wand” and is going to do something to the client to “fix” them, as if the client is a passive bystander. In fact, the therapeutic relationship is a collaborative one, which both the therapist and client must work at.

I named my practice Garden Heart Psychotherapy because I love how the metaphor of the garden reflects the collaborative and organic nature of the therapeutic relationship and healing process.

In this metaphor, the client is the garden—a beautiful and complex eco-system full of miraculous potential for growth and abundance. However, the client often comes to therapy because their inner self and/or relationships are not thriving—their potential has not been realized. They feel blocked, drained of energy and motivation–stunted and wilted like a fallow garden.

While the therapist/gardener in this metaphor, cannot “make” the garden healthy or do the work the flower must do to come into full bloom, they can and should create the conditions conducive to health and growth. They must tend the soil to make sure there are adequate nutrients –help the client identify and overcome the barriers to connecting to people and engaging in experiences and activities that nourish and nurture them, including basic self-care like adequate sleep, nutrition and exercise. The therapist/gardener also provides the right amount of water and sun—witnessing the client with warmth and compassion, giving them an experience of a healthy relationship, mirroring the client’s goodness and their strengths.

While the gardener/therapist tends to the garden, the garden/client must make a deep commitment to themselves and the process to do the necessary work inside and outside of the therapy room. Just as the seed must push it’s roots deep into the earth gathering up nutrients and creating stability, so must the client be willing to dig deep, take in love and care from the therapist and others in their lives, and ultimately give this to themselves. Just as each plant must break out of the darkness of the soil and reach it’s branches towards the light of the sun, so must the client be willing to bring what is in the darkness to the light of day— to uncover buried painful feelings and give them expression, to allow their most vulnerable parts to be witnessed with warmth and compassion, thus producing resilience and strength.

Together, therapist and client, identify and pull out old life-draining weeds, releasing past hurts and toxic beliefs allowing the growth of inner peace. Together, client and therapist tend the wounds and heal the dis-ease of the heart/garden with compassion. This difficult and worthwhile work, undertaken by client and therapist, ultimately frees up previously blocked and drained energy that can be used for new growth, creativity, deepened connections to self and others, abundance and beauty.


The Heart is like a garden.
It can grow compassion or fear,
resentment or love.
What seeds will you plant


Judy Noddin is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who sees individual adults and couples in her private practice in Oakland. Judy uses a variety of therapeutic methods in her work with clients including talk therapy, mindfulness techniques, somatic attachment therapy interventions, sand tray and expressive arts therapies. Judy also runs therapy groups for women called “Wild Women Unleashed” where she uses expressive arts to help women explore how the Wild Woman archetype can be a doorway to personal power, intuitive knowing and creative energy. For more information, or to contact Judy, please visit her website at

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